As the week four match up versus Kansas City gets closer, I can’t help but wonder what path the 2016 version of the Steelers will take after the debacle in week three. Was the team really exposed as pretenders or will they quickly right the ship and blaze a trail of victories on their way to Lombardi number seven? One thing for sure, it’s too early to tell, so far now I’ll take a look at possible scenarios in week four that I believe will lead to either a 3-1 or 2-2 record.
Why the Steelers will win: Shake off the embarrassment of week three and play Steelers football. It’s fairly simple—nothing worked last week. Everyone needs to hold himself accountable and step up his individual game and work as a cohesive unit to give this team a chance at success.
More specifically, the offense. Starting with the big men up front. KC brings a very good defense to Heinz Field for this prime time match up. The pass rush is dangerous and they one of the best corners (Marcus Peter) in the league. Ben Roethlisberger will need a clean pocket to operate from and not need to force throws or the secondary will make him pay. This starts up front. Pass blocking and run blocking need to get back to the levels we saw in the first two weeks. This will give Le’Veon Bell some space to run and therefore keep the KC defense honest, which in turn will give Ben some options in the passing game. Also, a receiver not named Antonio Brown needs to make plays in the passing game. Brown will get his and hopefully Bell is in game shape. Getting him going early and often is a sure way to make the KC defense bring help.
On defense, the Steelers need to remember how to tackle, how take the correct angles to get in position to tackle, and how to cover receivers, tight ends and speedy running backs out of the backfield. Spencer Ware can hurt you multiple ways. Last weeks version of this article mentioned the Steelers had to account for Darren Sproles, and damn it I hate when I’m right. Sproles did what Sproles does and took a short pass the distance for six points. The Steelers’ defense needs to account for Ware along with Chacandrick West, Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce. If the defense takes care of business and even gives the offense a short field to work with, the Steelers can come out with a win.
Why the Chiefs Will Win: If the Steelers have not fixed the things that led to the week three beat down, the Chiefs will hang 30-plus points on the Steelers and the Pittsburgh offense will play catch up throughout.
If Alex Smith is allowed time to throw or can escape pressure, he will make plays. The Steelers need to fix their pass rush and need to be ready to contain if he does get flushed out of the pocket. No one’s confusing Smith for Cam Newton, but the Chief’s quarterback is solid and knows how to play withing Andy Reid’s system. The Steelers defensive backs will need stay with their assignments and the defensive front will need to able stop the run and get at Smith and be prepared for him to make plays with his legs.
If the KC pass rush gets through the Steelers’ offensive line like the Eagles did, Ben will have to do his best impersonation of Ben-being-Ben and extend plays, but if he’s not careful, Marcus Peters will make him pay.
The bottom line is this—if the Steelers resemble the week three Steelers, this will get ugly fast. If the Steelers come out firing on all cylinders, they can and should get the win. My gut tells me that they will indeed be ready for the task at hand. Last week was one of those let-down games that Tomlin’s crew seems to have (and possibly need?) every year. Usually this team rallies after one of those games. The offense is far too talented to be kept out of the end zone like they were last week. The defense is definitely a work in progress, but they are better than the squad that showed up in Philadelphia last Sunday.